Where Tipu Worshipped
At this temple, people offer tiny body parts crafted in silver as a prayer when they have health issues
Two things I never miss at the Srikanteshwara Temple. A small, glistening jade linga next to the garbhagriha of the Goddess Parvati. Second, a board that says “Hakim Nanjundeshwara.” The rise of new politics can obscure aspects of an age that seem inconvenient at the moment.
The Srikanteshwara Temple, 30 km from Mysuru in Karnataka, was a favourite of Tipu Sultan who is currently in history’s doghouse.
The story goes that when Tipu’s royal elephant suffered a major eye ailment, the dejected ruler prayed to Lord Shiva. The beast was cured by bathing its eye with theertha from the temple. And as a token of gratitude, the ruler gifted the jade linga to the temple. He also named the deity Hakim Nanjunda—hakim means healer in Arabic.
My mother told me that Lord Shiva here is the universal healer and is hence called Vaidya Nanjundeshwara. It is said Tipu’s father Hyder Ali too was a Nanjundeshwara bhakt. As any great temple of antiquity would, Nanjundeshwara continued to receive royal benevolence; Devarajammanni, the queen of the Mysore king Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, added a massive 120 feet Gopuram with nine stories to the existing structure.
Nanjundeshwara’s temple is ancient, and the place finds mentioned in the Shiva Purana. Nanjundeshwara town, which stands on the right bank of river Kapila, a Kaveri tributary, is called both the Kasi of the South and Dakshina Prayaga. The etymology of the deity’s name harks back to the manthan in the puranas when Shiva drank poison.
Nanju means poison in Kannada, and Nanjundeshwara, the God who drank the poison. Another tale goes that the Sage Gautama installed a linga in the temple’s sanctum sanctorum here centuries ago. During the annual Dodda Yatre chariot festival in summer, my mother would never fail to buy two small, flat silver figurines of young girls from vendors who set up their stalls outside. She would place them in a hundi and pray for the good health of my sister and I.
The hundi is marked harrake saman, which translates into prayer articles. The offering of silver figurines is an old Nanjundeshwara tradition. Even specific body parts made in silver of hands, legs, eyes, back, stomach etc are offered to the lord. Each part refers to a specific afflicted area which the devotee hopes
Shiva will heal.
The Parasurama Temple close by is believed to be the site where the sage sought redemption for murdering his own mother. Surely worth a visit.
✥ Nanjangud is 165 km away from Bengaluru and has good road connectivity
✥ It is the hub where the renowned BV Pandit’s Ayurvedic products are manufactured
✥ Nanjangud is famous for its locally grown sweet, juicy, small bananas called rasabale. The native fruit was accorded the Geographical Indication tag in 2005.